Concert Review: Julie Doiron, Feb. 3, The Horseshoe Tavern

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Toronto – I estimate that over the years, and including her appearances with Eric’s Trip and as part of Gord Downie’s band, I have probably seen Julie Doiron upwards of ten times.  And every time, it’s a different experience and she’s usually playing with different musicians (or on her own).  On this occasion, she was backed up by Wil Kidman of Constantines and Woolly Leaves fame on guitar and drums. 

It was a pretty loose, unstructured set (The only time I’ve seen her more loose and unstructured was when Patrick Watson made her make up a song on the spot during a workshop at The Hillside Festival a couple years ago) that basically consisted of her and Kidman making up the set as they went along.  This made for moments like Doiron forgetting which song she was going to play or changing her mind about songs quickly.  They also included several cover songs in the set – the Everley Bros./Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris/Nazareth tune “Love Hurts,” Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” (which featured Julie on the drums), and Merle Haggard’s “Reasons To Quit,” about which Julie went on at great lengths.

And Julie does like to go on.  Her set ended up being an hour and a half long.  Julie herself worried that it was going on too long, as she worked to figure out a mini setlist for the last few songs of the night (Was it three songs left or four … maybe five?), trying to fit in both songs she wanted to play and songs requested by the audience which she thought would be good ones.  And frankly, it was maybe a bit too long, yet it never felt like she overstayed her welcome.  Of course, the length of the set was not just due to the number of songs played, but to Julie’s between song chats with the audience.  These included musings about nakedness, the dangers of rental cars without snow tires, and whether the lake in Bath is in fact Lake Ontario, as well as a story or two about her kids.  It seems she’s not quite the same person she was when she wrote “Talking’s not so easy/I wish i had more to say.”

Concert Review: Jane’s Party, Feb. 2, The Piston

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Toronto – “So much for the blizzard … you guys all made it out,” said Jane’s Party singer/guitarist/bassist/keyboard player Jeff Giles by way of introduction, mocking the so called “Snowmageddon.”   Not only did this show take place on Groundhog Day, but it was also the day of the “Great Snowstorm” that wasn’t really that big of a deal.  Seriously, that storm was over-hyped.  Toronto schools actually closed for their first official snow day in about 10 years.  This was not a day worthy of being a snow day.  Chevy Chase would be ashamed of you, Toronto.  Really, think about that … it probably takes a lot to shame Chevy Chase.  But I digress.

Back to Jane’s Party, who put on a pretty good show.  Having only heard a couple songs by them beforehand, I was expecting some power-poppish stuff with a bit of a 70s influence.  I wasn’t wrong, but there was a lot more to their sound than that, including some jazzy indie rock influence in one song, a country rock number, and a bouncy Grizzly Bear cover.  They had a fair bit of variety in their sound, which is probably due to the fact that they have multiple singers/songwriters in the band.  In that sense, they reminded me a bit of Sloan – they don’t exactly sound like Sloan, but like the Haligonians turned Torontonians, I also get the impression that these guys are students of pop music.  It seems like they’ve listened to a lot of stuff and have now synthesized those influences into a bunch of catchy tunes.  All in all, not a bad way to spend a slightly snowy evening.

02 Things Are Different by janespartyband

Concert Review: The Besnard Lakes, January 29, Lee’s Palace

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Toronto – First things first, let’s talk about clothing.  I suspected it before but I am now absolutely sure that Besnard Lakessinger/guitarist Jace Lasek only wears the same two or three black cowboy shirts over and over again.  Or he has a closet full of nearly identical shirts.  Who knows.  Oh, and while we’re on the subject of clothing, bassist Olga Goreas was dressed kind of like Wednesday Adams onstage.  And occasionally sunglasses for some reason (or perhaps as a nod to openers Suuns, she wore suunglasses).  The look kind of works for her I guess.

And now a few words on Suuns, who put on a pretty interesting show.  They were weird, experimental, noisy, dancey (oh, the bass!) and definitely pretty good.  They incorporate a wide variety of influences into their sound, and it mostly blends together pretty seamlessly.  There were a couple moments where the stylistic changes in tone and tempo from song to song were not quite as smooth, but they certainly held my attention.  I’d be interested in seeing them again.

As the Besnard Lakes took to the stage, an excerpt from (I believe) an old Carl Sagan speech played, becoming increasingly distorted as the last few words played in a loop.  It set the right mood, bringing to mind all things cosmic and spacey.  And The Besnard Lakes can get pretty spacey when they want to.  Pretty loud too.  Above all the volume, Lasek and Gorea’s vocals shone through.  One of the highlights of their set was “Disaster.”  As Lasek launched into his falsetto vocals, I overheard two separate people behind me saying, “I love this song.”  His performance was all the more impressive when he later revealed that he was actually quite sick during the show.  It wasn’t too noticeable as he seemed to be in pretty good spirits all night, although once he mentioned it, I did start to notice it a bit.  During a pause in one of their last songs,he seemed to lose his place for a second.  Then he did it again.  A few megafans up front loudly helped him to count it in.  It’s good to know that people have your back sometimes.

The Besnard Lakes – Disaster by TheAgencyGroup

Concert Review: Dinosaur Bones, White Lies, January 29th, Mod Club

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Toronto – It’s been a few years since I last saw White Lies take the stage and since then they have released a new album (Ritual) and garnered enough fan interest to sell out the Mod Club on a frosty Saturday night. Their mission for the night was to erase the memory of their sub par show at Lee’s Palace a few years ago, where Harry McVeigh’s flu ridden voice forbade him from hitting those crucial high notes needed for some of the more dramatic parts of their songs, and as we all are aware of, White Lies discography solely consists of dramatic songs so in turn, most people left that show disappointed.

I’ll be happy to report that this time around, there was no such sickness to prevent Mr. McVeigh from hitting those notes, which resulted in anthems such as Death and Unfinished Business sounding as glorious as they should, resulting in sold out crowd clapping and pumping their fists. The downside was that aside from those two singles and perhaps a track or two from their new album – Bigger Then Us/The Power & The Glory, there weren’t really enough highs in the concert to keep the crowd going. I don’t know if the band takes itself too seriously or they have decided that stationary and mechanical was the stage persona they want to go for, but the group did not make for a very engaging live act. The lack of show on stage combined with the unbalanced nature of their songs led to a quite uneven show were there was seemingly far too much time between highs. I guess it doesn’t help that their new album Ritual sounds a lot like their first album, To Lose My Life, but only not as good. Maybe I haven’t had proper time to absorb all it’s subtleties and nuances, but to me there wasn’t track on there that immediate jumped out at you as being godblindingly awesome like Death and Unfinished Business. I guess the jury is still out on them, but if you like that post punk 80s Talking Head meets Interpol sound, then White Lies are still a pretty good bet.

Having said all that, Death and Unfinished Business are just amazing songs and probably worth the price of admission themselves. Hell even Mumford & Sons covered it.
White Lies – Death by marcuspessoa

White Lies / Unfinished Business by ShornStarMusic

Opening for White Lies was local act Dinosaur Bones who gave us a short sample of what their first ever album My Divider. They set started a lot earlier then expected (some would say 8:15) so I missed a few tunes when I arrived. What I heard was a band starting to find it’s way as an indie rock band whose tracks are atypically Canadian in that there are a lot of layers of guitars, bass, keyboard and other noise to deal with, and somehow it just comes together right when you think it was heading for chaos. While I’m not sure if they have the career redefining single in the bag (maybe it was one of the earlier songs), what is certain is that they have definitely put on a good stage game. Impeccably dressed and giving off a loose and fun vibe, I expect the band to continue to build upon earlier successes and when that hit inevitably comes, they’ll definitely be ready for it.

Dinosaur Bones – Birthright by GoldSoundz